The Role of PMS in Endo
As painful as my periods were from the very beginning of my teen years, I was at least fortunate in that pain related to my menstrual cycle was limited to only those days I actually bled (and in addition to that, I was also lucky that my periods have always been relatively short: an average of 2-3 days). I wondered if Premenstrual Syndrome, otherwise known as "PMS," actually existed. The stereotype presented in film and television was one of crabby women craving chocolate and crying easily.
My experience with PMS
As I approached my mid-twenties, I slowly started to experience PMS myself, and realized not only was it a genuine phenomenon, but its impacts were far more complicated and nuanced than the typical media depictions. For me, PMS initially and mostly manifested as an extension of pain in the few days leading up to my period. In particular, these symptoms included a general feeling of heaviness and bloating, as well as breast swelling and tenderness. My breasts would become so painful that I wouldn't be able to sleep on my stomach during those days and I'd have dreams of them exploding. Usually, once I began bleeding, the swelling in my breasts would go down and the tenderness would abate.
Over time, the length of my PMS extended, sometimes lasting up to a week or more preceding my period. The record has been 15 days of PMS. In addition to bloating and breast tenderness, I also began to get cramping similar to or sometimes the same as the period itself, so much so that I began to call them "phantom periods". I would sometimes get migraine-caliber headaches the day or two before or on the first day of my period. In the past several years, now in my thirties, my periods are also abetted by a widespread flare of pain in my body: an almost arthritic type of phenomenon. Everything hurts, from my ankles to my temples. All the old injuries and issues I have hurt worse during my PMS. Yet, some months I still barely get any PMS symptoms before my period. That can be a Catch-22, because while I appreciate the reprieve from PMS, I sometimes don't like being caught off guard when I don't have any other symptoms to let me know to prepare. But, overall, it would be nice if at the least the agony of my menstrual cycle was only consigned to a couple of days again rather than half or more of each month.
Controlling my PMS
About six months ago, I started taking Chasteberry, and I have noticed a significant improvement in my PMS symptoms. This month seems to be an exception, as my PMS has been particularly bad. Yet, I also ran out of Chasteberry early this month and noted that the PMS escalated after I stopped taking it (I often take it till I begin bleeding and then take a week off). I will make sure to keep taking it and not run out early again.
Do you experience PMS, and how badly and for how long before your period? Is there anything you've done or taken that helps relieve or improve PMS symptoms?
What % of endo warriors from our In America survey have both migraines and endo?